Designated Hitter: A column that Derek Gentile would have liked
Sitting here waiting for the extra-large pot of coffee to percolate and the bagels to toast. It is, after all, a little colder than I believe it should be.
As big as the world of high school sports is, it can also be pretty small.
Take Saturday's MIAA state Division VII semifinal football game between Wahconah and Blackstone Valley Tech.
Blackstone Valley's coach wasn't the only person on the field or in Commerce Bank Park at Foley Stadium who figured that, even though Wahconah was down 21-3 at one point, the Warriors would have at least one more run in them.
"Personally, I know how tough they are," Blackstone Valley coach Jim Archibald said.
Stepping into the way-back machine, Archibald played against Wahconah in 2001 in the Western-Central Massachusetts Super Bowl. It was the Division II game, and Archibald's Northbridge team beat Wahconah 35-17 that year.
"Having played against them, I know what kind of program they are," Archibald said. "I know the kind of physical toughness they bring. I knew that was going to be the case again today."
Archibald was a senior on that team, which was led by junior quarterback Danny Brown and junior tight end Matt Krevis. Brown threw for 164 yards and two touchdown passes in the win, while he rushed for 101 yards and had a TD of his own.
Brown and Krevis then came back and beat Wahconah in the following season.
Brown was going to go to Harvard, but suffered a career-ending knee injury his freshman year. Krevis played at Brown.
"They looked like the St. Louis Rams," said Robbie Cimini, Wahconah's quarterback in 2001.
As they sing at Disney: "It's a small world, after all."
I checked out the University of Michigan's basketball success so far, and coach John Beilein's team is doing pretty well.
The Wolverines are 3-0, and will play LSU in the Maui Classic.
So far, a guy we all saw in Berkshire County is also doing pretty darn well.
Duncan Robinson, who played on a Mike Maker-coached Williams team that went to the Division III national championship game, is leading UM with a 14.3 scoring average. He is 10 of 23 from 3-point range, which is excellent.
When I wrote about Robinson two years ago, I asked media members who follow the high school-prep school scene, how did Robinson elude Division I recruiters at Phillips Exeter? Nobody had a really good answer, and neither did a former Big Ten Conference coach.
"I could give you a litany of those," said former Indiana coach Tom Crean. "Victor Oladipo had one scholarship offer. Dwyane Wade had three. That's always going to happen."
I broached the topic with Crean on an ESPN conference call before the start of the college basketball season.
"My respect level for him as a complete player went way, way up last year because we game-planned to try to move him and we couldn't do it," Crean told me, quickly adding the following.
"He's far more than just a shooter," he said, "and I would say this: I think he's going to play in the NBA for a considerable amount of time. I really do."
And if you want to play the Six Degrees game, Jay Bilas — also on the conference call — can add to it.
"I had played high school ball with Coach Maker's brother Wyatt Maker [who played on Rollie Massimino's championship team at Villanova in 1985]. I was at Michigan a year later, I think it was," Bilas said, recalling that he saw Robinson in Williamstown when he spoke at Williams. "I'm watching Michigan practice and this dude on the scout team is crushing them. I was like 'Who is that kid?' He didn't miss a shot. They couldn't guard him.
"I was like, wait a minute, I've seen that guy before, and it turned out to be Duncan."
Derek Gentile would have enjoyed that story. When it came to sports, Derek Gentile enjoyed listening to, and telling sports stories.
We lost our friend, and longtime Eagle writer, last week. I still cannot believe he is gone.
Derek was a real encyclopedia of information on just about anything. But since this is a sports column, we'll stick with sports.
He and I were the only people in the current Eagle newsroom who could run down rosters from the old American Basketball Association. I remember a lot of Berkshire County sports from my time here, but listening him tell tales about the Lenox Merchants basketball team or some high school athlete from bygone days always brought a smile to my face.
First and foremost, he was a basketball guy. I have a copy of his "Smooth Moves" book about basketball in my book case. It is prominently featured.
I am sure that he would love the current Boston Celtics team, and would be fascinated to chart their progress.
We will do it for you.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.
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